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upert  Brooke 





Rupert  Brooke  and  the 
Intellectual  Imagination 


London :  Sidgwick  &  Jackson,  Limited 
3  Adam  Street,  Adelphi,  W.C.      1919 


The  following  paper  was  read  before  Rttgby 

School  on  the  evening  of  2jth  March   1919. 

A  few  alterations  and  omissions  have  been  made 

in  preparing  it  for  /,!  e  press 

Printed  fn  Great  Britain 
ly  Twntutl  &*  Spears,  Edinburgh 

Rupert  Brooke  and  the 
Intellectual    Imagination 

ONE  evening  in  1766,  Dr  Johnson  being  then  in  the 
fifty-seventh  year  of  his  age,  his  friends,  Boswell 
and  Goldsmith,  called  on  him  at  his  lodgings  in 
Johnson's  Court,  Fleet  Street,  with  the  intention 
of  persuading  him  to  sup  with  them  at  the  Mitre. 
But  though  he  was  proof  against  their  cajoleries, 
he  was  by  no  means  averse  from  a  talk.  With 
true  hospitality,  since  he  had  himself,  we  are  told, 
become  a  water-drinker,  he  called  for  a  bottle 
of  port.  This  his  guests  proceeded  to  discuss. 
While  they  sipped,  the  three  of  them  con- 
versed on  subjects  no  less  beguiling  than  play- 
going  and  poetry. 

Goldsmith  ventured  to  refer  to  the  deplorable 
fact  that  his  old  friend  and  former  schoolfellow 
had  given  up  the  writing  of  verses.  "  Why,  sir," 
replied  Johnson,  "  our  tastes  greatly  alter.  The 
lad  does  not  care  for  the  child's  rattle.  ...  As 
we  advance  in  the  journey  of  life,  we  drop 
some  of  the  things  which  have  pleased  us ; 
whether  it  be  that  we  are  fatigued  and  don't 


choose  to  carry  so  many  things  any  farther,  or 
that  we  find  other  things  which  we  like  better." 

Boswell  persisted.  "  But,  sir,"  said  he,  "  why 
don't  you  give  us  something  in  some  other  way." 
"  No,  sir,"  Johnson  replied,  "  I  am  not  obliged 
to  do  any  more.  No  man  is  obliged  to  do  as 
much  as  he  can  do.  A  man  is  to  have  part  of 
his  life  to  himself."  "  But  I  wonder,  sir,"  Boswell 
continued,  "  you  have  not  more  pleasure  in  writ- 
ing than  in  not  writing."  Whereupon  descended 
the  crushing  retort,  "  Sir,  you  may  wonder." 

Johnson  then  proceeded  to  discuss  the  actual 
making  of  verses.  "The  great  difficulty,"  he 
observed — alas,  how  truly,  "is  to  know  when 
you  have  made  good  ones."  Once,  he  boasted, 
he  had  written  as  many  as  a  full  hundred  lines  a 
day ;  but  he  was  then  under  forty,  and  had  been 
inspired  by  no  less  fertile  a  theme  than  "The 
Vanity  of  Human  Wishes,"  a  poem  that,  with 
other  prudent  counsel,  bids  the  "  young  en- 
thusiast "  pause  ere  he  choose  literature  and 
learning  as  a  spiral  staircase  to  fame : — 

Deign  on  the  passing  world  to  turn  thine  eyes 
And  pause  awhile  from  Letters,  to  be  wise  .  .  . 

None  the  less,  Johnson  made  haste  to  assure 
Goldsmith  that  his  Muse  even  at  this  late  day 
was  not  wholly  mum : — "  I  am  not  quite  idle ;  I 
made  one  line  t'other  day ;  but  I  made  no  more!" 


"  Let  us  hear  it,"  cried  Goldsmith,  "  we'll  put  a 
bad  one  to  it ! "  "  No,  sir,  I  have  forgot  it." 
And  so  sally  succeeded  sally. 

How  much  of  the  virtue  of  Johnson's  talk  we 
are  to  attribute  to  Boswell's  genius  for  selection 
and  condensation,  and  how  much  to  the  habitu- 
ality  of  his  idol's  supreme  judgment,  penetration, 
humanity  and  good  sense,  is  one  of  the  delectable 
problems  of  literature.  This  fact,  at  any  rate, 
is  unquestionable  ;  namely,  that  Johnson  seldom 
indeed  let  fall  a  remark,  even  though  merely  in 
passing,  which  is  not  worth  a  sensible  man's  con- 
sideration. He  knew — rare  felicity — what  he  was 
talking  about.  He  spoke — rare  presence  of  mind 
— not  without,  but  after,  aforethought.  However 
dogmatic,  overbearing  and  partisan  he  might  be, 
not  only  in  what  he  is  recorded  to  have  said  is 
there  always  something  substantive  and  four- 
square, but  frequently  even  a  light  and  occasional 
utterance  of  his  will  stand  like  a  signpost  at  the 
cross-roads  positively  imploring  the  traveller  to 
make  further  exploration. 

"  The  lad  does  not  care  for  the  child's  rattle." 
Here,  surely,  is  one  of  those  signposts,  one 
more  enticing  invitation  to  explore.  By  rattle, 
obviously,  Johnson  meant  not  only  things 
childish,  but  things  childlike.  For  such  things 
the  '  lad '  does  not  merely  cease  to  care.  He 


substitutes  for  them  other  things  which  he  likes 
better.  Not  that  every  vestige  of  charm  and 
sentiment  necessarily  deserts  the  rattle,  but  other 
delights  intrude  ;  and,  what  is  still  more  im- 
portant, other  faculties  that  will  take  pleasure  in 
these  new  toys  and  interests  comd  into  energy  and 
play.  Does  not  this  rightly  imply  that  between 
childhood  and  boyhood  is  fixed  a  perceptible  gulf, 
physical,  spiritual,  psychological,  and  that  in 
minds  in  which  the  powers  and  tendencies  con- 
spicuous in  boyhood,  and  more  or  less  dormant 
or  latent  in  earlier  years,  predominate,  those  of 
childhood  are  apt  to  fade  and  fall  away  ? 

This  is  true,  I  think,  of  us  all,  whatever  our 
gifts  and  graces  ;  but  in  a  certain  direction  I 
believe  it  is  true  in  a  peculiar  degree  of  poets — 
of  children  and  lads  (and  possibly  lasses,  though 
they,  fortunately  for  me,  lie  outside  my  im- 
mediate inquiry)  who  are  destined,  or  doomed, 
to  become  poets.  Poets,  that  is,  may  be  divided, 
for  illustration  and  convenience,  into  two  distinct 
classes :  those  who  in  their  idiosyncrasies 
resemble  children  and  bring  to  ripeness  the 
faculties  peculiar  to  childhood ;  and  those  who 
resemble  lads.  On  the  one  hand  is  the  poet  who 
carries  with  him  through  life,  in  varying  vigour 
and  variety,  the  salient  characteristics  of  child- 
hood (though  modified,  of  course,  by  subsequent 


activities  and  experience).  On  the  other  is  the 
jjoet  who  carries  with  him  the  salient  character- 
istics of  boyhood  (though  modified  by  the  ex- 
-periences  and  activities  of  his  childhood).  This 
is  little  more  than  a  theory,  but  it  may  be  worth 
a  passing  scrutiny. 

What  are  the  salient  characteristics  of  child- 
hood ?  Children,  it  will  be  agreed,  live  in  a 
world  peculiarly  their  own,  so  much  so  that  it 
is  doubtful  if  the  adult  can  do  more  than  very 
fleetingly  reoccupy  that  far-away  consciousness. 
There  is,  however,  no  doubt  that  the  world  of 
the  grown-up  is  to  children  an  inexhaustible 
astonishment  and  despair.  They  brood  on  us. 
And  perhaps  it  is  well  that  we  are  not  invited 
to  their  pow-wows,  until,  at  any  rate,  the  hatchet 
for  the  hundredth  time  is  re-buried.  Children 
are  in  a  sense  butterflies,  though  they  toil  with 
an  almost  inconceivable  assiduity  after  life's 
scanty  pollen  and  nectar,  and  though,  by  a  curious 
inversion  of  the  processes  of  nature,  they  may  be- 
come the  half-comatose  and  purblind  chrysalides 
which  too  many  of  us  poor  mature  creatures  so 
ruefully  resemble.  They  are  not  bound  in  by 
their  groping  senses.  Facts  to  them  are  the  live-"l 
liest  of  chameleons.  Between  their  dream  and  \ 
their  reality  looms  no  impassable  abyss.  There 
is  no  solitude  more  secluded  than  a  child's,  4io 


absorption  more  complete,  no  insight  more  ex- 
quisite and,  one  might  even  add,  more  compre- 
hensive. As  we  strive  to  look  back  and  to 
live  our  past  again,  can  we  recall  any  joy,  fear, 
hope  or  disappointment  more  extreme  than  those 
of  our  childhood,  any  love  more  impulsive  and 
unquestioning,  and,  alas,  any  boredom  so  un- 
mitigated and  unutterable  ? 

We  call  their  faith,  even  in  ourselves,  credulity  ; 
and  are  grown  perhaps  so  accustomed  to  life's 
mysteries  that  we  pale  at  their  candour.  "  I  am 
afraid  you  cannot  understand  it,  dear,"  ex- 
claimed a  long-suffering  mother,  at  the  end  of  her 
resources.  "  O  yes,  I  can  very  well,"  was  her 
little  boy's  reply,  "  if  only  you  would  not  ex- 
plain." "  Why  is  there  such  a  lot  of  things  in 
the  world  if  no  one  knows  all  these  things  ?  " 
ran  another  small  mind's  inquiry.  And  yet 
another  :  "  Perhaps  the  world  is  a  fancy,  mother. 
Shall  I  wake  from  this  dream  ?  " 

We  speak  indulgently  of  childish  make-believe, 
childish  fancy.  Bret  Harte  was  nearer  the  truth 
when  he  maintained  that  "  the  dominant  ex- 
pression of  a  child  is  gravity."  The  cold  fact 
is  that  few  of  us  have  the  energy  to  be  serious  at 
their  pitch.  There  runs  a  jingle  : 

O,  whither  go  all  the  nights  and  days  ? 
And  where  can  to-morrow  be  ? 


Is  anyone  there,  when  I'm  not  there  ? 
And  why  am  I  always  Me  ? 

With  such  metaphysical  riddles  as  these — 
riddles  which  no  philosopher  has  yet  answered 
to  anybody's  but  his  own  entire  satisfaction 
— children  entertain  the  waking  moments  of 
their  inward  reverie.  They  are  contemplatives, 
solitaries,  fakirs,  who  sink  again  and  again  out 
of  the  noise  and  fever  of  existence  into  a  waking 
vision.  We  can  approach  them  only  by  way  of 
intuition  and  remembrance,  only  by  becoming 
even  as  one  of  them  ;  I  though  there  are  many 
books— Sully's  "Studies  of  Childhood,"  for 
instance,  Mr  Gosse's  "  Father  and  Son,"  John 
Ruskin's  "  Prseterita,"  Serge  Aksakoff's  "  Years 
of  Childhood,"  Henry  James's  "  A  Small  Boy 
and  Others  " — which  will  be  a  really  vivid  and 
quiet  help  in  times  of  difficulty. 

This  broken  dream,  then,  this  profound  self- 
communion,  this  innocent  peace  and  wonder 
make  up  the  secret  existence  of  a  really  child- 
like child  :  while  the  intellect  is  only  stirring. 

Then,  suddenly  life  flings  open  the  door  of  the 
nursery.  The  child  becomes  a  boy.  I  do  not 
mean  that  the  transformation  is  as  instantaneous 
as  that,  though,  if  I  may  venture  to  give  a' 
personal  testimony,  I  have  seen  two  children 
plunge  out  into  the  morning  for  the  first  time  to 


their  first  boys' -school,  and  return  at  evening 
transmogrified,  so  to  speak,  into  that  queer, 
wild,  and  (frequently)  amiable  animal  known  as 
a  boy.  Gradually  the  childish  self  retires  like  a 
shocked  snail  into  its  shell.  Like  a  hermit  crab  it 
accumulates  defensive  and  aggressive  disguises. 
Consciousness  from  being  chiefly  subjective 
becomes  largely  objective.  The  steam-engine 
routs  Faerie.  Actuality  breaks  in  upon  dream. 
School  rounds  off  the  glistening  angles.  The 
individual  is  swamped  awhile  by  the  collective. 
Yet  the  child-mind,  the  child-imagination  per- 
sists, and  if  powerful,  never  perishes. 

But  here,  as  it  seems  to  me,  is  the  dividing  line. 
It  is  here  that  the  boyish  type  of  mind  and  im- 
agination, the  intellectual  analytical  type  begins 
to  show  itself,  and  to  flourish.  The  boy — I 
merely  refer,  if  I  may  be  forgiven,  to  Boy,  and 
far  more  tentatively  to  Girl,  in  the  abstract, 
though,  of  course,  there  is  no  such  entity — the 
boy  is  happy  in  company.  Company  sharpens 
his  wits,  awakens  his  rivalry,  deepens  his  re- 
sponsiveness, enlarges  his  responsibility,  "  stirs 
him  up,"  as  we  say.  Apron-strings,  however 
dear  their  contents,  were  always  a  little  re- 
strictive. He  borrows  a  pitiless  pair  of  scissors. 
He,  unlike  the  child  told  of  by  Blake  and  Vaughan 
and  Traherne,  had  always  more  or  less  "  under- 


stood  this  place."  He  loves  "  a  forward  motion  " 
—the  faster  the  better.  When  "  shades  of  the 
prison-house  "  begin  to  close  about  him,  he  im- 
mediately sets  out  to  explore  the  jail.  His 
natural  impulse  is  to  discover  the  thronging, 
complicated,  busy  world,  to  sail  out  into  the 
West,  rather  than  to  dream  of  a  remote  Orient. 
He  is  a  restless,  curious,  untiring  inquirer ;  / 
though  preferably  on  his  own  lines  rather  than 
on  those  dictated  to  him.  He  wants  to  test,  to 
examine,  to  experiment. 

We  must  beware  of  theories  and  pigeon-holes. 
Theory  is  a  bad  master,  and  there  is  a  secret 
exit  to  every  convenient  pigeon-hole.  There  are 
children  desperately  matter-of-fact ;  there  are 
boys  dreamily  matter-of-fancy.  But  roughly, 
these  are  the  two  phases  of  man's  early  life. 
Surroundings  and  education  may  mould  and 
modify,  but  the  inward  bent  of  each  one  of 
us  is  persistent.  Can  we  not,  indeed,  divide 
"  grown-ups "  into  two  distinct  categories ; 
those  in  whom  the  child  is  most  evident,  and 
those  resembling  the  boy  ?  "  Men  are  but  children 
of  a  larger  growth,"  says  Dryden.  And  Praed 
makes  fun  of  the  sad  fact :  "  Bearded  men  to- 
day appear  just  Eton  boys  grown  heavy."  The 
change  is  one  of  size  rather  than  one  of  quality. 
Indeed,  in  its  fight  for  a  place,  in  its  fair  play 


and  foul,  in  its  rigid  conventions,  in  its  contest 
for  prizes  that  are"  so  oddly  apt  to  lose  their 
value  as  soon  as  they  are  won,  how  like  the  school 
of  life  is  to  any  other  school ;  how  strangely 
opinions  differ  regarding  its  rules,  its  aims,  its 
method,  its  routine  and  its  Headmaster. 

And  the  poets  ?  They,  too,  attend  both 
schools.  But  what  are  the  faculties  and  qualities 
of  mind  which  produce  poetry,  or  which  incline 
men  towards  it  ?  According  to  Byron,  there  are 
four  elements  that  we  are  justified  in  demanding 
of  a  poet.  He  found  them,  not  without  satisfac- 
tion, more  conspicuous  in  Pope  than  in  his  con- 
temporaries. These  elements  are  sense,  learning 
(in  moderation),  passion  and  invention.  Perhaps 
because  he  was  less  rich  in  it,  he  omitted  a  fifth 
element,  by  no  means  the  least  essential.  I  mean 
imagination,  the  imagination  that  not  merely 
invents,  but  that  creates,  and  pierces  to  the  in- 
most spirit  and  being  of  life,  humanity  and  nature.  • 
This  poetical  imagination  also  is  of  two  distinct 
kinds  or  types.  ^he..on^diyines,  the. .other  dis- 
covers. JThe_one  is  intuitivejiilductive ;  the  other 
logical,  deductive._  The  one  visionary,  the  other 
intellectual.  The  one  knows  that  beauty  is  truth, 
the  other  proves  that  truth  is  beauty.  And  the 
poet  inherits,  as  it  seems  to  me,  the  one  kind 
from  the  child  in  him,  the  other  from  the  boy  in 


him.  Not  that  any  one  poet's  imagination  is 
purely  and  solely  of  either  type.  The  greatest 
poets — Shakespeare,  Dante,  Goethe,  for  instance, 
are  masters  of  both.  Other  poets,  Wordsworth, 
Keats,  Patmore,  for  instance,  may  manifest  in 
varying  measure  the  one  impulse  and  the  other. 
But  the  two  streams,  though  their  source  and 
tributaries  intermingle,  are  distinguishable ;  and 
such  poets  as  Plato,  the  writer  of  the  Book  of 
Job,  Vaughan,  Blake,  Coleridge,  and  Shelley, 
may  be  taken  as  representative  of  the  one  type ; 
Lucretius,  Donne,  Dryden,  Byron,  Browning, 
Meredith,  as  representative  of  the  other.  Is  not 
life  both  a  dream  and  an  awakening  ? 

The  visionaries,  those  whose  eyes  are  fixed  o 
the  distance,  on  the  beginning  and  end,  rather 
than  on  the  incident  and  excitement,  of  life's 
journey,  have    to   learn    to    substantiate    their 
imaginings,  to  base  their  fantastic  palaces  on 
terra  firma,  to  weave  their  dreams  into  the  fabric 
of  actuality.     But  the  source  and  origin  of  their 
poetry  is  in  the  world  within.     The  intellectual, 
imagination,  on  the  other  hand,  flourishes  onS 
knowledge  and  experience.     It  must  first  explore  \ 
before   it    can   analyse,    devour    before   it   can  ( 
digest,   the  world  in  which  it  finds  itself.     Ity 
feeds  and  feeds  upon  ideas,  but  because  it  is 
creative,    it    expresses   them   in   the   terms    of 


humanity,  of  the  senses  and  the  emotions,  makes 
life  of  them,  that  is.  There  is  less  mystery,  less 
magic  in  its  poetry.  It  does  not  demand  of  its 
reader  so  profound  or  so  complete  a  surrender. 
But  if  any  youthfulness  is  left  in  us,  we  can  share 
its  courage,  enthusiasm  and  energy,  its  zest  and 
enterprise,  its  penetrating  thought,  its  wit, 
fervour,  passion,  and  we  should  not  find  it 
impossible  to  sympathise  with  its  wild  revulsions 
of  faith  and  feeling,  its  creative  scepticism. 

Without  imagination  of  the  one  kind  or  the 
other  mortal  existence  is  indeed  a  dreary  and 
prosaic  business.  The  moment  we  begin  to  live 
— when  we  meet  the  friend  of  friends,  or  fall  in 
love,  or  think  of  our  children,  or  make  up  our 
minds,  or  set  to  the  work  we  burn  to  do,  or  make 
something,  or  vow  a  vow,  or  pause  suddenly  face 
to  face  with  beauty — at  that  moment  the  im- 
agination in  us  kindles,  begins  to  flame.  Then 
we  actually  talk  in  rhythm.  What  is  genius 
but  the  possession  of  this  supreme  inward  energy 
in  a  rare  and  intense  degree  ?  Dlumined  by  the 
imagination,  our  life — whatever  its  defeats  and 
despairs — is  a  never-ending,  unforeseen  strange- 
ness and  adventure  and  mystery.  This  is  the 
fountain  of  our  faith  and  of  our  hope. 

And  so,  by  what  I  am  afraid  has  been  a  tediously 
circuitous  route,  I  have  come  at  length  to 


Rupert  Brooke  and  to  his  poetry.  His  surely 
was  the  intellectual  imagination  possessed  in  a 
rare  degree.  Nothing  in  his  work  is  more  con- 
spicuous than  its  preoccupation  with  actual  ex- 
perience, its  adventurousness,  its  daring,  its  keen 
curiosity  and  interest  in  ideas,  its  life-giving 
youthfulness.  Nothing  in  his  work  is  more  con- 
spicuous by  its  absence  than  reverie,  a  deep  still 
broodingness.  The  children  in  his  poems  are 
few.  They  are  all  seen  objectively,  from  without ; 
though  a  wistful  childlike  longing  for  peace  and 
home  and  mother  dwells  in  such  a  poem  as 
"  Retrospect  "  or  "A  Memory."  I  am  not  sure 
that  the  word  '  dream  '  occurs  in  them  at  all.* 

"  Don't  give  away  one  of  the  first  poets  in 
England,"  he  says  in  one  of  his  letters,  "  but 
there  is  in  him  still  a  very,  very  small  portion 
that's  just  a  little  childish."  Surely  it  was  the 
boy  in  him  that  boasted  in  that  jolly,  easy  fashion, 
the  boy  in  him  that  was  a  little  shamefaced 
to  confess  to  that  fault  vestige  of  childishness. 

*  To  my  shame  and  consternation  my  friend  Mr  Edward 
Marsh  has  pointed  out  to  me,  since  this  paper  was  read,  that 
the  word  '  dream  '  occurs  in  no  less  than  fifteen  of  Brooke's 
poems.  This,  I  hope,  will  be  one  more  salutary  lesson  that 
general  impressions  are  none  the  worse  for  being  put  to  a 
close  test.  Still,  the  fact  that  that  peculiar,  dreamlike 
quality  and  atmosphere  which  is  so  conspicuous  in  the  poetry 
of  the  visionaries  is  very  rarely,  if  ever,  present  in  that  of 
Brooke  will  not,  I  think,  be  gainsaid. 



The  theme  of  his  poetry  is  the  life  of  the  mind, 
the  senses,  the  feelings,  life  here  and  now,  how- 
ever impatient  he  may  be  with  life's  limita- 
tions. Its  longing  is  for  a  state  of  consciousness 
wherein  this  kind  of  life  shall  be  possible  with- 
out exhaustion,  disillusionment,  or  reaction.  His 
words,  too,  are  not  symbols  ;  they  mean  pre- 
cisely what  they  say  and  only  what  they  say. 
Whereas  the  words  of  the  mystics  of  the  child- 
like imagination,  Blake  and  Vaughan  and 
Coleridge,  seem  chiefly  to  mean  what  is  left 
hinted  at,  rather  than  expressed.  His  world 
stands  out  sharp  and  distinct,  like  the  towers  and 
pinnacles  of  a  city  under  the  light  and  blue  of 
the  sky.  Their  world,  old  as  Eden  and  remote  as 
the  stars,  lies  like  the  fabric  of  a  vision,  bathed 
hi  an  unearthly  atmosphere.  He  desired,  loved, 
and  praised  things  in  themselves  for  their  energy, 
vividness  and  naturalness  ;  they  for  some  inward 
and  spiritual  significance,  for  the  reality  of 
which  they  are  the  painted  veil.  They  live  in 
the  quietude  of  their  imaginations,  in  a  far-away 
listening,  and  are  most  happy  when  at  peace,  if 
not  passive.  He  is  all  activity,  apprehensiveness. 
Nothing  pleases  him  so  much  as  doing  things, 
though,  fretted  that  body  and  mind  so  soon  weary, 
he  may  pine  for  sleep.  His  writing,  whether  hi 
his  poems,  his  "  Webster,"  or  in  his  letters,  is  itself 


a  kind  of  action  ;  and  he  delights  far  more  than 
the  mystics  in  things  touched,  smelt  and  tasted. 
He  delights,  that  is,  in  things  in  themselves  not 
merely  for  then*  beauty  or  for  the  unseen  reality 
they  represent.  He  is  restless,  enquiring,  veers 
in  the  wind  like  a 'golden  weathercock.  'He  is 
impatient  of  a  vague  idealism,  as  wary  as  a  fox 
of  the  faintest  sniff  of  sentimentality.  To  avoid 
them  (not  always  quite  successfully,)  he  flies  to 
the  opposite  extreme,  and  to  escape  from  what 
he  calls  the  rosy  mists  of  poets'  experience  em- 
phasises the  unpleasant  side  of  life.  His  one 
desire  is  to  tell  each  salient  moment's  truth 
about  it.  Truth  at  all  costs :  let  beauty  take 
care  of  itself.  So  he  came  to  write  and  to  defend 
poems  that  in  Mr  Marsh's  witty  phrase  one  finds 
it  disquieting  to  read  at  meals.  A  child,  a 
visionary,  lives  in  eternity ;  a  man  in  tune,  a 
boy — sheer  youthfulness — in  the  moment.  It  is 
the  moments  that  flower  for  Brooke.  What  is 
his  poem  "  Dining-room  Tea "  but  the  lovely 
cage  of  an  instant  when  in  ecstasy  time  and  the 
world  stood  still  ? 

For  truth's  sake  he  has  no  fear  of  contradic- 
tions. The  mood  changes,  the  problem,  even 
the  certainty  shows  itself  under  different  aspects  ; 
he  will  be  faithful  to  each  in  turn.  Obviously 
he  rather  enjoyed  shocking  the  stagnant  and 


satisfied,  and  baiting  the  thin-blooded  philo- 
sophers, enjoyed  indeed  shocking  and  baiting 
himself;  but  he  also  delighted,  for  the  pure  in- 
tellectual exercise,  in  looking,  as  we  say,  all  round 
a  thing.  If,  unlike  Methuselah,  he  did  not  live 
long  enough  to  see  life  whole,  he  at  least  con- 
fronted it  with  a  remarkably  steady  and  dis- 
concerting stare.  If  he  was  anywhere  at  ease, 
it  was  in  ' '  the  1  ittle  nowhere  of  the  brain .' '  Again 
and  again,  for  instance,  he  speculates  on  the  life 
that  follows  death.  First  (mere  chronological 
order  is  not  absolutely  material)  he  imagines  the 
Heaven  of  the  fish : 

Fat  caterpillars  drift  around, 
And  Paradisal  grubs  are  found ; 
Unfading  moths,  immortal  flies, 
And  the  worm  that  never  dies. 
And  in  that  Heaven  of  all  their  wish, 
There  shall  be  no  more  land,  say  fish. 

Next,  he  laments  despairingly  in  Tahiti,  with  a 
kind  of  wistful  mockery,  at  the  thought  of  an  im- 
mortality wherein  all  is  typical  and  nothing  real : 

And  you'll  no  longer  swing  and  sway 
Divinely  down  the  scented  shade, 
Where  feet  to  Ambulation  fade, 
And  moons  are  lost  in  endless  Day. 
How  shall  we  wind  these  wreaths  of  ours, 
Where  there  are  neither  heads  nor  flowers  ?  . 


Next,  he  momentarily  wafts  himself  into  the 
being  of  a  Shade  : 

So  a  poor  ghost,  beside  his  misty  streams, 
Is  haunted  by  strange  doubts,  evasive  dreams, 

Hints  of  a  pre-Lethean  life,  of  men, 
Stars,  rocks,  and  flesh,  things  unintelligible, 

And  light  on  waving  grass,  he  knows  not  when, 
And  feet  that  ran,  but  where,  he  cannot  tell. 

Next,  he  deprecates  the  possibility  of  a  future 
life  even  as  tenuous  and  nebulous  as  this  : 

Poor  straws !  on  the  dark  flood  we  catch  awhile, 
Cling,  and  are  borne  into  the  night  apart. 
The  laugh  dies  with  the  lips,  '  Love '  with  the  lover. 

And,  again,  he  is  lost  in  rapture  at  the  possibility 
which  he  mocked  at  in  the  first  poem,  sighed  at 
in  the  second,  belittled  in  the  third,  and  denied 
in  the  fourth : 

Not  dead,  not  undesirous  yet, 
Still  sentient,  still  unsatisfied, 

We'll  ride  the  air,  and  shine,  and  flit, 
Around  the  places  where  we  died, 

And  dance  as  dust  before  the  sun, 
And  light  of  foot,  and  unconfined, 

Hurry  from  road  to  road,  and  run 
About  the  errands  of  the  wind. 


And  every  mote,  on  earth  or  air, 

Will  speed  and  gleam,  down  later  days, 

And  like  a  secret  pilgrim  fare 
By  eager  and  invisible  ways, 

Nor  ever  rest,  nor  ever  lie, 

Till,  beyond  thinking,  out  of  view, 

One  mote  of  all  the  dust  that's  I 
Shall  meet  one  atom  that  was  you. 

Then  in  some  garden  hushed  from  wind, 

Warm  in  a  sunset's  afterglow, 
The  lovers  in  the  flowers  will  find 

A  sweet  and  strange  unquiet  grow 

Upon  the  peace ;  and,  past  desiring, 

So  high  a  beauty  in  the  air, 
And  such  a  light,  and  such  a  quiring, 

And  such  a  radiant  ecstasy  there, 

They'll  know  not  if  it's  fire,  or  dew, 
Or  out  of  earth,  or  in  the  height, 

Singing,  or  flame,  or  scent,  or  hue, 
Or  two  that  pass,  in  light,  to  light, 

Out  of  the  garden,  higher,  higher.  .  .  . 

Which  of  these  conflicting  solutions,  we  may 
inquire,  to  one  of  Life's  obscurest  problems  are  we 
to  accept  as  his  ?  Do,  or  do  not,  such  seductive 
speculations  as  these  confirm  the  view  expressed 
by  Plato  in  the  Republic  that  the  poets 
undermine  the  rational  principle  in  the  soul  ? 
It  may  be  admitted  that  such  poetry  as  this,  in 


the  words  of  Bacon,  "  makes  men  witty,"  and  is 
unquestionably  a  "  criticism  of  life  " ;  but  can  it 
be  said  to  teach — as  Wordsworth  intended  that 
his  poetry  should  ?  Well,  when  Mrs  Barbauld 
had  the  temerity  to  charge  ."  The  Rime  of  the 
Ancient  Mariner  "  with  two  grave  faults  ;  first, 
that  it  was  improbable,  and  next,  that  it  had  no 
moral ;  Coleridge  cheerfully  pleaded  guilty  to  the 
first  charge,  while,  as  for  the  other,  "  I  told  her 
that  ...  it  had  too  much — that  is,  for  a  work 
of  pure  imagination."  Will  it  satisfy  "  serious  " 
inquirers  if  it  be  suggested  that  these  poems  of 
Brooke's  are  manifestations  of  the  intellectual 
imagination  ?  Probably  not.  They  demand  of 
a  poet  a  definite  and  explicit  philosophy.  They 
desire  of  him  a  confirmation,  if  not  of  their  own 
faith,  then  of  his.  But  it  cannot  be  too  clearly 
recognised  that  the  faith  of  a  poet  is  expressed  in 
all  that  he  writes.  He  cannot,  either  as  a  man 
or  as  a  poet,  live  without  faith ;  and  never  does. 
A  few  lovely  words  about  lovely  things  is  an 
expression  of  faith  :  so,  too,  is  all  love,  all  desire 
for  truth,  all  happiness.  If  we  have  such  faith 
ourselves,  if  we  search  close  enough,  we  shall 
find  a  poet's  faith  expressed  implicitly  through- 
out his  work. 

We  must,  too,  be  thankful  for  many  and  various 
mercies,  the  mercy,  for  instance  (so  richly  con- 


ferred  in  Brooke's  writing)  that  here  was  a  man 
who  never  spared  mind  and  spirit  in  the  effort 
to  do  the  best  work  he  could,  who  was  that 
finest  thing  any  man  can  be — a  true  craftsman 
delighting  in  his  job.  We  cannot  demand  that  a 
poet  shall  answer  each  of  our  riddles  in  turn  ; 
"  tidy  things  up."  He  shares  our  doubts  and 
problems  ;  exults  in  them,  and  at  the  same  time 
proves  that  life  in  spite  of  all  its  duplicity  and 
deceits  and  horrors,  is  full  of  strangeness,  wonder, 
mystery,  grace  and  power :  is  "  good."  This, 
at  any  rate,  is  true  of  Rupert  Brooke.  And  he 
knew  well  enough  that  the  nearer  a  poet  gets  to 
preaching,  the  more  cautious  he  should  be  re- 
specting the  pulpit  and  the  appurtenances  thereof. 
As  with  the  life  hereafter,  so  with  this  life,  so 
with  love.  The  sentimentalist  always  shy  of  the 
real,  the  cynic  always  hostile  to  it,  cling  to  some 
pleasing  dream  or  ugly  nightmare  of  the  real, 
knowing  them  to  be  illusions.  That  is  precisely 
what  Brooke,  keen,  insistent,  analytical,  refused 
to  do.  He  pours  out  his  mind  and  heart  for 
instance  in  the  service  of  love.  The  instant 
that  love  is  dead,  he  has,  to  put  it  crudely,  very 
little  use  for  its  corpse.  He  refuses  point  blank 
to  find  happiness  in  any  happy  medium,  to  be  a 
wanderer,  as  he  said,  in  "  the  middle  mist." 
There  are  two  sides — many  more  than  two,  as  a 


matter  of  fact — to  every  question.  "  Blue 
Evening  "  or  "  The  Voice  "  prove  his  competence 
to  see  both.  At  times,  indeed,  with  a  kind  of 
boyish  waywardness  and  obstinacy  he  prefers  the  VT 
other  side — the  ugliest— of  the  much-flattered 
moon.  Helen's  young  face  was  beautiful.  True. 
In  age  not  only  must  she  have  lost  her  now 
immortal  fairness,  but  possibly  she  became 
repulsive.  Well,  then,  as  a  poet,  hating 
"sugared  lies,"  he  said  so. 

It  is  indeed  characteristic  of  the  intellectual 
imagination  to  insist  on  '  life's  little  ironies.' 
It  destroys  in  order  to  rebuild.  Every  scientist, 
who  is  not  a  mere  accumulator  of  facts,  possesses 
it.  Acutely  sensitive  to  the  imperfections  of  the 
present,  its  hope  is  in  the  future ;  whereas  the 
visionary,  certainly  no  less  conscious  of  flaw  and 
evil,  is  happy  in  his  faith  in  the  past,  or  rather 
in  the  eternal  now.  The  one  cries  "  What  shall 
I  do  ?  "  the  other  "  What  must  I  be  ?  "  The 
one,  as  has  been  said,  would  prove  that  truth  is  * 


beauty  ;  the  other  knows  that  beauty  is  truth. 
After  all,  to  gain  the  whole  world  is  in  one  true 
sense  to  save  the  soul. 

In  the  lugubrious  and  exciting  moment  when 
Brooke  wrote  "  Kindliness  "  and  "  Menelaus  and 
Helen,"  it  was  not  his  aim  or  thought  to  see  that 
age,  no  less  than  youth  and  beauty  is,  in  his  own 


phrase,  '  pitiful  with  mortality.'  He  resented 
ugliness  and  decay,  and  associated  them  with 
death  and  evil.  For  death,  whatever  else  it 
may  be,  brings  destruction  of  the  beauty  of  the 
body ;  and  evil  brings  the  destruction  of  the  spirit 
which  is  the  life  and  light  of  the  body.  They 
are  the  contraries  of  a  true  living  energy  ;  and 
because  his  mind  seemed  to  be  indestructible, 
and  his  body  as  quick  with  vitality  as  a  racehorse, 
and  love  the  very  lantern  of  beauty,  he  not  only 
feared  the  activities  of  death,  but  was  intolerant 
of  mere  tranquillity,  even  of  friendliness,  and, 
above  all,  of  masking  make-believe. 

Sometimes,  indeed,  in  his  poetry,  in  his  letters, 
he  is  not  quite  just  to  himself  in  the  past,  or 
even  in  the  present,  because  he  seemed  to  detect 
compromise  and  pretence.  "  So  the  poor  love 
of  fool  and  blind  I've  proved  you,  For,  fool  or 
lovely,  'twas  a  fool  that  loved  you."  On  the 
other  hand,  listen  to  these  fragments  from  the 
letters  in  Mr  Marsh's  vivifying  memoir,  "  I  find 
myself  smiling  a  dim,  gentle,  poetic,  paternal 
Jehovah-like  smile — over  the  ultimate  ex- 
cellence of  humanity."  "  Dear !  dear !  it's 
very  trying  being  so  exalted  one  day,  and  ever  so 
desperate  the  next — this  self-knowledge !  .  .  ." 
\  "I  know  what  things  are  good  :  friendship  and 
work  and  conversation.  These  I  shall  have. 


He  tells  how  the  day  has  brought  back  to  him 
"  that  tearing  hunger  to  do  and  do  and  do  things. 
I  want  to  walk  1000  miles,  and  write  1000  plays, 
and  sing  1000  poems,  and  drink  1000  pots  of 
beer,  and  kiss  1000  girls,  and — oh,  a  million 
things !  .  .  .  The  spring  makes  me  almost 
ill  with  excitement.  I  go  round  corners 
on  the  roads  shivering  and  nearly  crying 
with  suspense,  as  one  did  as  a  child,  fearing 
some  playmate  in  waiting  to  jump  out  and 
frighten  one.  .  .  ."  "  Henceforward,"  writes 
Mr  Marsh  in  another  passage,  "  the  only  thing 
he  cared  for — or  rather  he  felt  he  ought  to 
care  for — in  a  man,  was  the  possession  of  good- 
ness ;  its  absence  the  one  thing  he  hated.  .  .  . 
It  was  the  spirit,  the  passion  that  counted  with 

His  verse  tells  the  same  tale.  Life  to  poetry, 
poetry  to  life — that  is  one  of  the  few  virtuous 
circles.  Life  and  thought  to  him  were  an  endless 
adventure.  His  mind,  as  he  says,  was  restless 
as  a  scrap  of  paper  in  the  wind.  His  moods 
ebbed  and  flowed,  even  while  his  heart,  that 
busy  heart,  as  he  called  it,  was  deeply  at  rest. 
Wit  to  such  a  mind  is  a  kind  of  safety-valve,  or 
even  the  little  whistle  which  the  small  boy  pipes 
up  for  courage'  sake  in  the  dark.  Letters  and 
poems  flash  and  tingle  with  wit — and  rare 


indeed  are  the  poems  in  our  language  which,  like 
"  Tiare  Tahiti,"  "  The  Funeral  of  Youth,"  and 
"  The  Old  Vicarage,"  are  witty  and  lovely  at  the 
same  time : 

And  in  that  garden,  black  and  white, 
Creep  whispers  through  the  grass  all  night ; 
And  spectral  dance,  before  the  dawn, 
A  hundred  Vicars  down  the  lawn ; 
Curates,  long  dust,  will  come  and  go 
On  lissom,  clerical,  printless  toe  ; 
And  oft  between  the  boughs  is  seen 
The  sly  shade  of  a  Rural  Dean  .  .  . 
Till,  at  a  shiver  in  the  skies, 
Vanishing  with  Satanic  cries, 
The  prim  ecclesiastic  rout 
Leaves  but  a  startled  sleeper-out, 
Grey  heavens,  the  first  bird's  drowsy  calls, 
The  falling  house  that  never  falls  .  .  . 

Few  poets  have  mocked  and  made  fun  and 
made  beauty  like  that,  all  in  one  breath,  and 
certainly  not  the  childlike  visionaries,  though 
one  of  them  knew  that  even  by  mere  playing 
the  innocent  may  go  to  heaven.  And  beneath 
Brooke's  wit  was  humour — the  humour  that  is 
cousin  to  the  imagination,  smiling  magnanimously 
at  the  world  it  loves  and  understands. 

Byron,  too,  was  witty,  mocking,  enjoyed  turn- 
ing things  inside  out  and  wrong  side  upwards, 
picking  ideas  to  pieces,  shocking  the  timid,  the 


transcendental,  the  spinners  of  cocoons ;  but 
Brooke,  unlike  Byron,  was  never  sourly  sardonic, 
never  morbidly  cynical.  Simply  because  he  was 
always  testing,  analysing,  examining,  with  an 
intellect  bordering  as  close  on  his  emotions  as  his 
emotions  bordered  on  his  intellect,  he  was,  again, 
in  Mr  Marsh's  words,  self-conscious,  self-examin- 
ing, self-critical,  but  never  self-absorbed ;  never 
an  ice-cold  egotist,  that  is,  however  insistent  he 
may  be  on  his  own  individuality.  More  closely 
than  Byron  he  resembles  Mercutio  : 

If  love  be  rough  with  you,  be  rough  with  love ; 
Prick  love  for  loving,  and  you  beat  love  down  .  .  . 
If  thou  art  dun,  we'll  draw  thee  from  the  mire 
Of  this,  sir-reverence  love,  wherein  thou  stick'st 
Up  to  the  ears.     Come,  we  burn  daylight,  ho  ... 

I  mean,  sir,  in  delay 

We  waste  our  lights  in  vain,  like  lamps  by  day. 
Take  our  good  meaning,  for  our  judgement  sits 
Five  times  in  that  ere  once  in  our  five  wits. 

And  in  his  metaphysical  turns,  his  wayward- 
ness, his  contradictoriness,  his  quick  revulsions 
of  feeling,  he  reminds  us  not  less — he  reminded 
even  himself  (in  a  moment  of  exultation) — of  the 
younger  Donne. 

Though  "  magic  "  in  the  accepted  sense  is  all 
but  absent  from  his  verse — the  magic  that 
transports  the  imagination  clean  into  another 


reality,  that  drenches  a  word,  a  phrase,  with 
the  light  that  was  never  strangely  cast  even 
on  the  Spice  Islands  or  Cathay,  he  has  that 
other  poetic  magic  that  can  in  a  line  or  two 
present  a  portrait,  a  philosophy,  and  fill  the 
instant  with  a  changeless  grace  and  truth. 
That  magic  shines  out  in  such  fragments,  for 
instance,  as : 

Beauty  was  there, 

Pale  in  her  black ;  dry-eyed ;  she  stood  alone  .  .  . 




And  turn,  and  toss  your  brown  delightful  head, 
Amusedly,  among  the  ancient  Dead  ; 

And  less-than-echoes  of  remembered  tears 
Hush  all  the  loud  confusion  of  the  heart : 

There  are  waters  blown  by  changing  winds  to  laughter 
And  lit  by  the  rich  skies,  all  day.     And  after, 

Frost,  with  a  gesture,  stays  the  waves  that  dance 
And  wandering  loveliness.     He  leaves  a  white 

Unbroken  glory,  a  gathered  radiance, 
A  width,  a  shining  peace,  under  the  night. 

What,  again,  is  it  but  this  magic  which  stills 
the  heart,  gives  light  to  the  imagination,  in  one 


of  the  less  well-known,  but  not  the  least  quiet 
and  tender  of  his  poems,  "  Doubts  "  ? 

When  she  sleeps,  her  soul,  I  know, 
Goes  a  wanderer  on  the  air, 
Wings  where  I  may  never  go, 
Leaves  her  lying,  still  and  fair, 
Waiting,  empty,  laid  aside. 
Like  a  dress  upon  a  chair  .  .  . 
This  I  know,  and  yet  I  know 
Doubts  that  will  not  be  denied. 

For  if  the  soul  be  not  in  place, 
What  has  laid  trouble  in  her  face  ? 
And,  sits  there  nothing  ware  and  wise 
Behind  the  curtain  of  her  eyes, 
What  is  it,  in  the  self  s  eclipse, 
Shadows,  soft  and  passingly, 
About  the  corners  of  her  lips, 
The  smile  that  is  essential  she  ? 

And  if  the  spirit  be  not  there, 
Why  is  fragrance  in  the  hair  ? 

Above  all,  Brooke's  poems  are  charged  with,  and 
surrender  the  magic  of  what  we  call  personality. 
They  seem,  as  we  read  them,  to  bring  us  into  a 
happy,  instant  relationship  with  him,  not  only 
ghostly  eye  to  eye,  but  mind  to  mind.  They  tell 
more  than  even  friendship  could  discover  unaided. 
They  share  his  secrets  with  the  world — as  if  a 


boy  had  turned  out  the  contents  of  his  astonish- 
ing pockets  just  before  going  to  bed.  They  share 
them,  too,  in  that  queer  paradoxical  fashion 
which  makes  a  volume  of  poems  a  more  secure 
refuge  even  than  one's  lawyer,  one's  doctor,  or 
a  priest. 

Many  of  OUT  fellow-creatures — whether  we 
like  or  dislike  them,  approve  or  disapprove — 
always  remain  a  little  mysterious  and  pro- 
blematical. Even  when  they  most  frankly  ex- 
press themselves,  we  are  conscious  that  there  is 
still  something  in  them  that  eludes  us,  a  dream 
unshared,  a  reticence  unbroken,  a  fugitive 
phantom.  Have  we,  indeed,  all  of  us,  to  the 
last  dim  corner  and  attic,  cellar  and  corridor, 
explored  ourselves  ?  Because  of  his  very 
candour,  because,  so  to  speak,  of  what  he  looked 
like,  this  was  to  some  extent  true  of  Rupert 
Brooke.  Age,  in  time,  scrawls  our  very  selves 
upon  our  faces.  Fast-locked  the  door  of  our 
souls  may  be,  but  the  key  hangs  in  the  porch. 
But  youth  and  delightful  manners  may  be  a 
mask  concealing  gravity  and  deep  feeling.  And 
what  is  one's  remembrance  of  that  serenely 
eager,  questing  face,  stilled,  as  it  were,  with  the 
phantom  of  a  smile  that  might  have  lingered  in 
the  countenance  of  the  Sphinx  in  her  younger 
days,  but  that  of  the  very  embodiment  of  youth  ? 


We  don't  often  meet  people  in  this  world  who 
instantly  recall  the  Golden  Age  and  remind  us 
that  the  Greek  sculptors  went  to  Life  for  their 
models.  Even  Henry  James,  in  his  essay  on 
Brooke,  not  less  in  its  translucency  than  five 
fathoms  deep,  seems  to  pause  Prospero-like  before 
that  Ariel  whom  he  had  suddenly  encountered  in 
the  beautiful  setting  of  the  Cambridge  "  backs." 
With  the  lingering  gusto  which  an  epicure 
lavishes  on  a  rare  old  vintage  he  tastes — tastes 
again,  and  all  but  hesitates  for  words  to  express 
his  precise  and  ultimate  reaction ;  and  to  suggest 
that  Henry  James  was  ever  at  a  loss  for  words 
is  to  insinuate  that  the  Mississippi  might  run 
short  of  water. 

One  was  just  happy  in  Brooke's  company. 
Guiltily  one  eyed  his  gold.  Here  in  laughing, 
talking  actuality  was  a  living  witness  of  what 
humanity  might  arrive  at  when — well,  when 
we  tread  the  streets  of  Utopia.  Happiness  is 
catching.  No  doubt  this  admiration  sometimes 
elated  him,  without  his  being  aware  of  it.  At 
times,  in  certain  company,  it  must  have  been 
a  positive  vexation.  Admiration  is  a  dense 
medium  though  which  to  press  to  what  treasure 
may  be  beyond.  Poets,  indeed,  unlike  children, 
and  for  their  own  sake  if  not  for  that  of  others, 
should  be  heard  and  not  seen ;  and  it  must  have 


been  very  difficult  for  this  poet  to  take  cover, 
to  lie  low.  He  came  ;  you  saw  ;  he  conquered. 
And  after  ?  Like  a  good  child's  birthday  cake, 
he  was  as  rich  as  he  looked. 

"  I  never  met,"  wrote  to  his  mother  one 
heaven-sent  friend  (I  mean  sent  to  the  outskirts 
of  heaven),  "  I  never  met  so  entirely  likeable 
a  chap.  .  .  .  Your  son  was  not  merely  a  genius  ; 
what  is  perhaps  more  important,  he  had  a  charm 
that  was  literally  like  sunshine."  Indeed  the 
good  things  simply  softly  shimmered  out  of  him 
— wit,  enthusiasm,  ideas,  raillery,  fun,  and  that 
sympathetic  imagination  concerning  everybody 
and  everything  that  he  himself  said  was  the 
artist's  one  duty.  He  had,  of  course,  his  own 
terms — critical,  and  perhaps  at  times  a  little 
exacting.  If  he  suffered  a  fool,  no  more  than  with 
the  rest  of  his  own  generation  was  it  with  a 
guileless  gladness.  He  preferred  humanity  to 
be  not  too  stiff,  not  too  stupid,  and  not  too  dry. 
Talk  he  loved ;  and  when  he  listened,  his  mind 
was  in  his  eyes,  "  tree  whispering  to  tree  without 
wind,  quietly."  If  he  hated,  if  his  sensitiveness 
wholly  recoiled,  then  that  emphatically  was  the 
end  of  the  matter. 

He  confronted  his  fellow-creatures  just  like 
the  boy  he  was,  ready  to  face  what  and  who  may 
come  without  flinching ;  smiling  lip  and  steady 


eye.  One  was  conscious  of  occasional  shynesses 
and  silences,  even  a  little  awkwardness  at  times 
that  was  in  itself  a  grace.  One  was  still  more 
conscious  of  an  insatiable  interest  and  specula- 
tion. His  quiet  gaze  took  you  in ;  yours  couldn't 
so  easily  take  him  in.  These  are  but  my 
own  remembrances,  few,  alas,  however  vivid 
and  unfading :  and  even  at  that  they  are 
merely  those  of  one  of  the  less  responsive 
sex  ! 

In  spite  of  life's  little  disillusionments  (which, 
it  is  prudent  to  remember,  we  may  cause  as 
well  as  endure) ;  in  spite  of  passing  moods  of 
blackness  and  revulsion,  nothing  could  be  clearer 
in  his  poems,  in  his  letters,  and  in  himself,  than 
his  zest  and  happiness.  Looking  back  on  his 
school -life  he  said  that  he  had  been  happier  than 
he  could  find  words  to  say.  What  wonder  that 
at  twenty  he  describes  himself  as  in  the  depths 
of  despondency  "  because  of  my  age  "  ?  And  a 
little  later  :  "  I  am  just  too  old  for  romance." 
What  does  that  mean  but  that  he  found  life  so 
full  and  so  arresting  that  he  was  afraid  he  might 
not  be  able  to  keep  pace  with  it  ?  It  was  a  need- 
less apprehension.  The  sea  was  deep  beneath 
the  waves  and  the  foam.  If  he  had  lived  to 
be,  let  us  say,  forty,  he  would  have  said  just 
the  same  thing,  though,  perhaps,  with  more 


emphasis  and  more  philosophy.  He  was  never 
to  experience  that  passing  misfortune.  He  flung 
himself  into  the  world — of  men  or  of  books,  of 
thought  and  affairs — as  a  wasp  pounces  into  a 
cakeshop,  Hotspur  into  the  fighting.  When  ^ 
his  soul  flourished  on  Walter  Pater  and  Aubrey  ' 
Beardsley,  he  thought  it  a  waste  of  time  to  walk 
and  swim.  When,  together  with  meat  and 
alcohol,  he  gave  up  these  rather  rarified  dainties, 
and  lived,  as  it  is  fabulously  reported,  on  milk 
and  honey,  it  seemed  a  waste  of  time  to  do 
anything  else.  He  could  not  be  half-hearted. 
Indeed,  in  that  "  tearing  hunger  to  do  things  " 
working,  playing,  reading,  writing,  publishing, 
travelling,  talking,  socialism,  politics — any  one 
thing  seemed  a  waste  of  time,  because  mean- 
while the  rest  of  life's  feast  was  kept  waiting. 
"  What  an  incredibly  lovely,  superb  world  !  "  he 
exclaims.  Lovely,  superb — what  are  the  precise 
epithets  which  we  should  choose  ?  Again,  "  it 
is  fun  going  and  making  thousands  of  acquaint- 
ances." It  must  be  fun — when  you  are  Rupert 
Brooke.  Frankly,  voraciously,  that  is  how  he  met 
everything  and  everybody — from  Mrs  Grundy  to 
the  Statue  of  Liberty. 

The  Statue  of  Liberty  reminds  me,  vividly  and 
happily,  of  America.  Three  years  ago,  the  fact 
that  one  of  the  great  American  Universities  had 

awarded  Brooke  the  first  Rowland  Memorial 
Prize — "  in  recognition  of  an  achievement  of 
marked  distinction  in  the  field  of  literature  " — 
passed,  comparatively  speaking,  unnoticed  in 
England.  But  that  award  was  not  merely  an 
academic  compliment.  The  value  of  a  gift  is  in 
the  spirit  of  the  giver,  and  this  gift  of  love  and 
admiration  was  from  the  heart.  The  friend — 
because  none  worthier  to  be  sent  was  free — the 
friend  of  Brooke's  whose  privilege  it  was  to  go 
to  New  Haven  formally  to  receive  that  prize  on 
Mrs  Brooke's  behalf,  was  absolutely  unknown 
there.  His  name — my  name,  as  a  matter  of 
fact — was,  alas,  no  Sesame.  In  New  York  I 
went,  I  remember,  to  call  one  day  on  a  very 
charming  friend  of  Brooke's,  to  whom  he  wrote 
some  of  his  gayest  letters.  A  graceful  coloured 
lift-girl  inquired  who  the  caller  was.  I  told  her. 
Whereupon  she  exclaimed,  with  a  smile  all 
radiant  gold  and  ivory,  "  Gee  whiz !  what  a 
name  !  "  This  trifling  and  immodest  digression 
is  only  to  show  just  how  Mrs  Brooke's  ambassador 
stood  in  the  great  eye  of  America.  Now,  in 
Brooke's  own  words,  "  American  hospitality 
means  that  with  the  nice  ones  you  can  be  at  once 
on  happy  and  intimate  terms."  I  wish  I  had 
words  to  express  how  true  that  is — that  heedful, 
self-sacrificing,  unbounded  kindness.  The  nice 

ones  indeed  were  everywhere,  for  without  ex- 
ception they  all  knew,  or  knew  of,  Brooke. 
Not  that  they  knew  no  other  contemporary 
English  poet,  perhaps  even  a  little  better  than 
John  Bull  does  himself — Mr  Yeats,  Mr  Binyon, 
Mr  Masefield,  Mr  Gibson.  But  I  had  but  to 
whisper  "  R.  B." — and  the  warmest  welcome  and 
interest  were  mine.  Now,  in  nineteen  hundred 
and  sixteen  that  welcome  for  his  sake  was  not 
merely  of  literary  significance.  The  ardour  and 
devotion  of  those  English  sonnets  of  his  had 
gone  home,  and  the  home  of  poetry  is  world- wide. 
Never  was  a  true  friendship  between  two  countries 
and  nations  of  such  vital  importance  as  that 
between  England  and  America  to-day.  Long 
before  the  American  nation  actually  "  came 
into  "  the  war,  many,  many  hearts  there  beat 
truly  with  ours.  Cousins  cannot  invariably  see 
eye  to  eye.  But  we  cannot  forget  that  generous 
sympathy  in  the  hour  when  England  needed  it. 
Our  steady  insight  and  understanding,  with  as 
slight  an  admixture  as  possible  of  a  peculiar 
quality  of  insularity  which  may  be  compre- 
hensively described  as  "  God-Almightiness,"  is 
the  least  we  can  give  in  return. 

I  hope  it  will  be  no  breach  of  confidence  if  I 
quote  a  few  words  from  a  letter  I  received  from 
a  friend  in  America  only  the  other  day,  one  who 


knew  Brooke's  poetry  not  by  hearsay,  but  by 
heart.  "  I  dutifully  belong,"  she  writes,  "  to 
the  English-speaking  Unions,  and  am  properly 
interested  in  various  schemes  for  making  the 
relations  between  England  and  America  closer. 
But  I  may  say  this  to  you — I  don't  want  the 
alliance  to  result  in  the  least  Americanizing  of 
England.  I  want  England  to  remain  '  like  her 
mother  who  died  yesterday  ' ;  "  (she  is  quoting 
Edward  Thomas,  rare  poet  and  rarest  friend). 
"  We  over  here,"  she  continues,  "  can't  have  all 
the  simple,  lovely  and  solitary  things  of  which 
Englishmen  write.  It  helps  so  much  to  be  able 
to  think  of  them  as  they  are  in  England."  These 
are  the  words  of  a  devotee  of  England — such 
devotees  as  poetry  makes  and  keeps. 

But  such  were  the  friends  that  Brooke  himself 
with  his  poetry,  personality  and  happiness  made 
wherever  he  went.  "  Happy,"  indeed,  is  the  re- 
frain that  runs  through  all  his  letters.  And  then, 
at  length,  when  on  his  way  to  the  last  great  ad- 
venture of  all :  "I  have  never,"  he  writes,  "  I 
have  never  been  so  pervasively  happy  in  my 
life."  That  is  how  he  opened  the  door  into  one's 
life,  and  came  in.  But  behind  all  that  we  say  or 
do,  behind  even  what  we  think,  is  the  solitude 
wherein  dwells  what  we  are  :  and  to  that  solitude 
he  was  no  stranger,  even  though  it  was  not  what 


called  most  frequently  for  expression.  Because 
each  day  was  so  great  a  tax,  however  welcome, 
on  mind  and  body,  he  sometimes  longed  for 
sleep : 

O  haven  without  wave  or  tide  ! 
Silence,  in  which  all  songs  have  died  ! 
Holy  book,  where  hearts  are  still ! 
And  home  at  length  under  the  hill ! 
O  mother  quiet,  breasts  of  peace, 
Where  love  itself  would  faint  and  cease  I 

0  infinite  deep  I  never  knew, 

1  would  come  back,  come  back  to  you, 
Find  you,  as  a  pool  unstirred, 

Kneel  down  by  you,  and  never  a  word, 

Lay  my  head,  and  nothing  said, 

In  your  hands,  ungarlanded ; 

And  a  long  watch  you  would  keep  ; 

And  I  should  sleep,  and  I  should  sleep ! 

So,  again  and  again  his  thoughts  in  his  poetry 
turn  towards  death,  only  in  appearance  the 
deepest  sleep  of  all.  But  then,  again,  since 
nothing  in  life  could  satisfy  such  a  hunger  and 
aspiration  for  life,  beyond  mood  and  change  he 
longed  for  a  peace  "  where  sense  is  with  knowing 
one "  :  and,  beyond  even  this  bodiless  com- 
munion, for  the  peace  that  passes  understanding  : 

Lost  into  God,  as  lights  in  light,  we  fly, 
Grown  one  with  will. 


Simply  because  things  as  they  are  are  not  as 
they  should  be,  we  take  refuge  at  times  from  the 
defeats  and  despairs  of  this  mortal  existence  in 
satire  and  scepticism,  a  passing  doubt  in  man, 
in  goodness,  in  the  heavenly  power.  So,  too, 
did  he.  He  kept  piling  up  the  fuel  for  those 
"  flaming  brains  "  of  his  ;  took  life  at  the  flood. 
When  ashes  succeeded  the  blaze  and  the  tide 
ran  low  and  the  mud-flats  shimmered  in  the 
mocking  sunshine ;  why,  he  could  at  least  be 
frank.  Each  in  turn  he  accepted  life's  promises  ; 
when  it  broke  some  of  them — as  it  sometimes 
must  in  order  to  keep  the  others — he  closely 
examined  the  pieces,  whatever  the  pang.  One 
promise,  however,  would  never  have  failed  him  : 
"  There  are  only  three'  good  things  in  this 
world:  one  is  to  read,  one  is  to  write,  the 
other  is  to  live  poetry."  The  last  is  by  far 
the  most  difficult,  and  Mrs  Grundy  is  not  un- 
charmed  to  discover  that  not  all  the  poets 
are  masters  of  the  art.  But  there  it  is  :  they 
are  his  own  deliberate  words ;  and  he  meant 
what  he  said. 

What,  if  he  had  lived,  he  would  have  done  in 
this  world  is  a  fascinating  but  an  unanswerable 
question.  This  only  can  be  said :  that  he 
would  have  gone  on  being  his  wonderful  self. 
Radium  is  inexhaustible.  As  we  look  back 


across  the  gulf  of  these  last  four  years  we  see 
him  in  vividest  outline  against  the  gloom. 
Other  poets,  beloved  of  the  gods,  and  not  un- 
endeared  to  humanity,  have  died  young,  as  did 
he.  Indeed  it  may  be  that,  However  uncom- 
promising the  usages  of  time,  every  poet,  ever}^ 
man  in  whom  burns  on  a  few  coals  of  imagina- 
tion, "  dies  young."  But  no  other  English  poet 
of  his  age  has  given  up  his  life  at  a  moment  so 
signal,  so  pregnant.  This  has  isolated  and  set 
Rupert  Brooke  apart.  No  single  consciousness 
can  even  so  much  as  vaguely  realise  the  sacrifice 
of  mind  and  hope  and  aspiration,  of  life  and 
promise,  "  lovely  and  of  good  report,"  which  this 
pitiless  and  abominable  war  has  meant  to 
England  and  to  the  world.  His  sacrifice  was 
representative.  The  "  incantation  of  his  verse  " 
quickened  "  a  new  birth,"  his  words  were  "  sparks 
among  mankind." 

What  place  in  English  literature  the  caprices 
of  time  and  taste  will  at  length  accord  him 
does  not  concern  us.  Let  us  in  our  thoughts  be 
as  charitable  as  we  can  to  our  posterity,  who  will 
have  leisure  for  judgment,  and  can  confer  that 
remembrance  which  fleeting  humanity  flatters  in 
the  term  "  immortality." 

I  saw  him  beat  the  surges  under  him, 
And  ride  upon  their  backs  .  .  . 


His  bold  head 

'Bove  the  contentious  waves  he  kept,  and  oar'd 
Himself  with  his  good  arms  in  lusty  stroke 
To  the  shore,  that  o'er  his  wave-worn  basis  bow'd 
As  stooping  to  relieve  him.     I  not  doubt 
He  came  alive  to  land. 

De  la  Mare,  Walter  John 
Rupert  Brooke  and  the 
R4Z6   intellectual  imagination 

cop.  2